Tag Archives: ceramics

The Boating Party with Claudia McGill


Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a series of Q&As with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, illustrators, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship, the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are one of the most important aspects of our civilisation.

Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy.

Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society. To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

Perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where is the creativity that will solve the world’s problems going to come from? Including economic and scientific ones?

In this Q&A, I am delighted to welcome artist Claudia McGill.

I love her bold, graphic style and use of colour. Reminds me of Picasso’s ceramics.

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What has been your greatest personal or career achievement?

I can’t pick out one thing. I’ve been alive for 58+ years and I just can’t pick one thing over another. I won’t even start to speculate or compare, just thinking about trying to do so is unsettling me!

What has been your greatest sacrifice?

Once again, I can’t pick one out. Not because there have been so many to burden me that I can’t choose, thank goodness! but because I think that pretty much, things might have looked bad at the time, had been painful, even life-altering, but in the end, it came out all right, or else somehow I managed, and I have come to believe that this pattern will hold.

To whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?

My husband, who has always one hundred percent supported me in all my endeavors.

Who, or what, inspires you?

I just enjoy pretty much everything about ordinary life – maybe I am easily amused or interested, but I’m always thinking something intriguing is just around the corner, and usually it works out that way.

What makes you unhappy?

Harsh words, intolerant attitudes, and people who do not take others’ feelings into consideration.

What makes you happy?

Too many things to list.

What are you reading?

I read a lot, and mostly I read mysteries. I also like biographies and how-to books. As for the last, I don’t need to want to actually do the how-to of whatever it is; I just enjoy reading about how things are made, done, constructed, etc.

Who, or what, are you listening to?

Usually I listen to audio books; I am not much interested in music. I get the books from my library and I lean toward thrillers. That’s kind of funny because I don’t enjoy reading print version thrillers that much, but having one read to me – I love it.

You’re going on a day trip. Where are you going and what is in your ‘day’ bag?

I might visit a library or go to a park for a run, I can’t decide which. In either case, I’d take a snack or a lunch, some drawing materials, a pen and notebook for writing things down, a sweater (for the library in case of extra-powerful a/c) or extra clothes to change into (the run). Probably a grocery list or items for the cleaners, since I always seem to be running errands wherever I find the time, but that’s not part of the trip, really…

What’s your favourite film?

The Wizard of Oz. My favorite since I first saw it about 55 years ago. What a strong impression it made on me right from the first.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Very easy question! Unsweetened iced tea – since I was a teenager – has been my favorite drink. My addiction picked up after I left school and went out on my own – cheaper to make a pitcher of iced tea than to buy bottles of soda, and at that time, every dime counted. Now, I am very partial to Honest Tea’s green tea. And I like drinking tea from the bottle more than a glass. A very tame addiction, maybe, but it’s lifelong.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

I don’t ever want to go back in time. I’m interested to read about the past, but I don’t want to be part of it.

What frightens you?

High winds; dogs running up to me, even if their owners say they are friendly; being stung by a wasp; being late; eating food past its sale date; I am afraid of the dentist now, or rather, of any pain at all in dental procedures, though I didn’t use to be; I’ve had some recent procedures that tipped the balance. Let me add that my dentist does his best not to hurt me and I appreciate it. I am not afraid of public speaking or most kinds of insects.

What do you do to relax?

Read. Ever since I learned to read, in 1963, I have never lacked for friends, excitement, new horizons…I can pick up a book and everything is all right.

What do you do when you’re angry?

Speak right up and let it out. When I am angry people know it. I don’t like being angry, though.

What can’t you live without?

My husband, my friends, my art and writing activities, and libraries.

What’s your motto?

“Give it a try and see what happens.”

Where is your Utopia?

Wyncote, PA, right where I live now and have for the past 25 years. It’s taken me time to understand it, but somehow, I’ve landed in (or made it into) just the right place for me.

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

Just as I am doing now. I like my life and I don’t long for things to be different. I might make sure I eat more chocolate cake than I do now, though.

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

Really, no one’s, to tell you the truth. I mostly want to go my way and let you go yours.

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

The person who knows how to fix it the fastest so I can get out of it. I am not very fond of feeling trapped…

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on some paintings, for a friend, of his house and his dogs, for the art portion of the question. In my poetry writing I continue my Installment Plan Poetry Marathon sessions, in which I spend a scheduled time every week focusing on writing poetry. I am also working on returning to running and my goal is five miles straight – I am making good progress. Maybe in the fall I’ll get there.

What is your ambition?

To take care of my house and those in it, do art, do poetry, exercise, and visit friends. That’s it.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

That chocolate cake would have very few calories and in fact be necessary to maintaining health.

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

This one I can’t answer, because I don’t want to make choices and hurt anyone’s feelings. Maybe I’d make a list and draw names? Here’s a sign-up sheet…

What would be on the menu?

Chocolate cake. I guess you knew that!

What question would you have liked me to have asked?

I’d loved to have told you about how much I enjoyed working in the cafeteria in college, something people can’t believe, but it is true – and so you would ask me – what did I learn there that I could have learned nowhere else – and I would say, A lot of things, but one tangible skill I have as a result is that I know how to cut a pie into 9 equal pieces.

Thank you Claudia.

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Claudia McGill

Biography

I am a self-taught artist. I came to art later in life. Because of these things, making art for me is not a separate compartment in my life but a thread that runs through everything that I do.

Currently I concentrate on painting in acrylics, but I also spend time working in collage/mixed media as well as doing some hand-built clay, mostly tiles and sculptures. I got my start in fiber art, making pictorial appliqued wall hangings.

Here is a synopsis of some of my activities.

Fiber Art: I did many craft projects when I was growing up, and I learned to knit and sew clothing. I turned to appliqué quilting as a hobby in my thirties, eventually developing a style that used machine sewing to interpret my ideas as collages in fabric.

Collage/Mixed Media: After some years, I wanted to spend more time on composition and less on sewing. I began to experiment with collage, seeing similarities in the artistic process with my fabric work. In the beginning, I created pieces that were usually based on photos I’d taken of landscapes, city scenes, objects, or other images of this sort. I then interpreted them in collage using papers I’d painted myself with acrylic paints.

As time went on my work grew more abstract. I became more interested in portraying feelings, emotions, memories, or imaginings rather than representing scenes. I began to use found papers and materials in addition to my own painted papers and started incorporating painting (in acrylics) as part of the compositions. As well as creating art intended to be hung on the wall, I made and still do make postcards, artist trading cards, embellished art books, etc.

Acrylic Painting: My painting work was an outgrowth of my mixed media art, which familiarized me with acrylics. Painting is now my main artistic activity. My works are inspired by the world I see around me but my intent is not to represent it. Instead, I pick out what appeals to me, set these pieces together as I think they might like to be placed, and concentrate on how it all fits together, color and shape.

Other work: I have done hand-built clay for some time, changing styles as my interests change, but focusing on sculptures and tiles. I’ve recently begun spending more time sketching with pen and ink; I enjoy the focus and observation that go into this activity. I also write poetry and have self-published a number of books.

In all my activities, I work with a sense of purpose and hope mixed together. Making art is very important to me as it is the way I work out answers to questions and guide myself through everyday life.

web site: www.claudiamcgill.com
art blog, featuring current work: https://claudiamcgillart.wordpress.com
poetry blog: https://claudiamcgill.wordpress.com/

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The Boating Party – with Tone von Krogh


Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a series of interviews with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are the most important aspect of our civilisation. Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy. Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many people view artists as rebels to society.

To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

And perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where’s the creativity that will solve the world’s problems? Including economic and scientific ones?

This week, I’m delighted to welcome ceramic artist, Tone von Krogh.

Tone on the wheel

What’s your greatest personal or career achievement?

In some ways I feel I’ve not reached the point of my journey where I’m counting my achievements. However,  being able to do what I love on a daily basis is my highest achievement as much as work in constant progress.

What’s been your greatest sacrifice?

I don’t think I have made many sacrifices. I moved to a new country to follow my love for ceramics and dream to take it further. I found another love which meant I settled here. At times it is hard to live far away from close family, but I have my own little one now…

When baby number two came along, I put the ceramics a side for a for a while. It felt like a hard decision to make at the time, but we were starting a build a total house renovation, so something had to give. When, after 3 years, the girls were both at school and I could move into my brand new garden studio, it felt like I had never left my business. I wouldn’t have missed those years with my girls for anything in the world.

To whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?

I’m sure there will be many more than I remember to mention here.

One of many, is my tutor at college in Norway, Peer Bjarne Moen for encouraging me to be me and express it in my work. I would not have followed my dream so confidently without his faith and push.

My family and friends for  their continuous support, encouragement, patience and help.

Fellow designers and artists for networking, inspiration and critique. And, of course, to all the galleries who promote my work.

Who and what inspire you?

The material clay itself really inspires me. The softness, its ability to take whichever shape you squeeze it into as well as the transformation from clay to ceramics.

I have always had a strong love for Scandinavian – and particularly Norwegian – woodlands and coastal landscapes. My current collection “Vinter” is directly inspired, as the name suggests, by winter and snow covered landscapes. The shapes are soft with indentations and bulges added to hint at something under the surface. After a heavy snow fall, all sounds are muted and objects become unrecognizable with sharp edges rounded. In a landscape, a bulge in the snow may cover a rock or a small tree or a man-made object.

It is this feeling of mystery, or lack of obviousness, that I am trying to express in the surfaces of my pieces, despite the main shape of the piece suggesting a certain function.

What was the last thing that inspired you?

Little things inspire me all the time. A fairly recent moment was earlier this year whilst celebrating my 40th birthday in Switzerland. My partner and I were taking shelter in a mountain hut from a blizzard outside. Through the window I could see these amazing ridged snow swirls forming. I ran out and took lots of pictures with my phone as the folds continuously changed shape. I have been trying to achieve the same effect in my work ever since.

What makes you unhappy?

Hatred, unfairness, ignorance…. Unhappy children.
Kiln disasters.

What makes you happy?

Good music, creating, sunshine…. Happy children.

What are you reading?

In a normal week I’ll be lucky if I get to read the Observer on Sunday. The last time I read a book was in the summer holiday. Solar by my favorite author Ian McEwan. Not a typical book for him, I laughed out loud several times, which is rare when I read any of his books.

Who, or what, are you listening to?

I listen to anything from Melody Gardot to Muse… depending on what I do. In the studio I listen to Xfm which gives me a daily dose of The Cure and lots of other old favorites. I went to see Django Django live last week. They were so much better live than I expected.

What’s your favourite film?

Difficult to choose. I don’t watch many films twice because I hate repetition and knowing what happens…. One of the few that I don’t mind watching again is Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s – Amelie.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

To a hot summer’s day….

What frightens you?

Anything happening to my children that I can’t make better. Not being able to do what I do due to ill health or other circumstances.

What can’t you live without?

Oxygen, water, nutrition and love.

What’s your motto?

Do what you love rather than what you think others want you to do. It will make you a lot happier and creative in the long run.

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

I would do what I do now for most of the year and then throw a big party for my family and friends.

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

Anyone moaning around me or getting in my way the next few weeks. I’m so busy getting ready for shows between now and December.  Tolerance levels are low.

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

The thought of being stuck in an elevator should have been one of my answers to question twelve. Can’t think of anybody making that situation any better except for a lift engineer or escapologist.  I am not good in confinement of any kind.

What are you working on at the moment?

This is my busiest time of year. I am getting ready for 3 big shows (http://issuu.com/lakesideartscentre/docs/lustre2012 , http://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/craftfair/index.htm , http://www.madebyhand-wales.co.uk/) all in November, as well as making work for Christmas exhibitions and general gallery top up. I spent the whole day on the potter’s wheel today making vases and bottles. I also started playing around with some new ideas for lamp bases. I may be under time pressure, but I still love being in the studio making all day.

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

Only six? I would fill the lake with boats and make sure all my best friends and fellow makers were there. Toe Rag would be a good band to invite for the musical entertainment.

What question would you liked me to have asked?

I’m quite happy to stop before I rant on even more…. Some tricky questions there already.

Thank you, Tone.

Inspiring snow

Cup and saucer detail

Bowls

Artist’s biography:

I was born in Switzerland, but spent most of my childhood and college years in Norway.  In 1994 I came to England on an exchange program with Manchester Metropolitan University and graduated in 3Dimensional Design  in 1995.  After years of having studios at various art centres, I now work from a purpose built studio in my garden.

My work has been widely exhibited in the UK as well as Norway, France, USA and Dubai. The work is also sold through the website www.madebyhandonline.com

My current collection of contemporary domestic Ceramics is strongly influenced by my impressions from the winter landscapes in Norway. When the snow covers trees, rocks, paths and architecture;  sharp edges become soft and everyday shapes may become unrecognizable. I have tried to bring the same feel to my work with a range of wavy vases and softly distorted beakers, bowls and bottles.  The colour range is reflecting the many tones of snow and ice and winter skies.

The work is produced using a potter’s wheel, but then cut and reassembled to non circular shapes or given soft dimples or bumps. I use food friendly glazes and fire the work to stoneware temperatures.

Ed: (Top tip, if you visit her webpage and decide to buy lots of her lovely work, her first name is pronounced: Torna.)

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I have a dream too, you know.


True, it may not be as ambitious and world-changing as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. But it’s a dream nonetheless.

To be honest, I wasn’t going to post about it until I felt I was in more of a position to realise this dream. But short of winning the Euro Millions Lottery, it aint going to happen without some serious philanthropic backer.

So, what is my dream?

Well, it’s to build a School of Arts for under-privileged kids.

Kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds in large inner-city estates. Kids who might not ordinarily get the opportunity to explore the more creative aspects of their nature.

What good would that do society? We’re in a depression, don’t you know!

Problems in every field of human endeavour are virtually always solved by creative thinking. Even the great Albert Einstein said so himself. Creativity allows us to look at problems from different angles and apply new thinking to solve problems.

Moreover, I don’t see it as a school that produces an unprecedented amount of artists. But an unprecedented amount of creative thinkers – whichever vocation they choose to pursue later in life. Whether it be mathematics, science, business, computers, product design, or economics.

And yes, a few more more artists too. And what’s wrong with that? Art is seen as a dirty word in this country. If I tell people I write poetry, they shift uneasily in their seats. If I said I write poetry in Ireland the response would be a polite smile and a nod toward the back of the queue.

Do you think the first rocket flight to the moon was dreamed up by a scientist?

Sure, scientists and engineers made it a reality. But it is creative people who come up with the ideas and the original solutions of how they can be achieved.

What will the kids do?

The school will develop and encourage creative thinking and self-expression.

It will foster, nurture and encourage exploration of the arts in all its many and varied forms including: painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, poetry, literature, screenplays, theatre, drama, dance, music, design, digital arts, film, photography, humanities, languages, and the classics.

Where is this school?

I quite fancy the idea of transforming a derelict Victorian mill. There’s something quite ironic about that. Though it certainly wouldn’t be a prerequisite. (Salts Mill in Bradford is a good example.)

Initially, an inner-city campus close to urban populations that have a high level of low socioeconomic families. Basically, anywhere across the Manchester – Huddersfield – Halifax – Leeds belt. It’s also sufficiently ‘central’ enough to accommodate children from further afield.

It would also be good to have a rural retreat – somewhere like the Lake District, Peak District or the Yorkshire Dales, where children can attend week-long courses/classes which double up as a holiday.

I would also like to open an international sister school in India or Sri Lanka where people from distinctly different cultures can share ideas. These schools could also participate in exchange programmes. (Then subsequently, even further afield: China, South America, South Asia.)

What about science subjects?

This school wouldn’t be a replacement for existing schools and their curricula – more of an extension to them.

Would it exclude people from non low socioeconomic backgrounds?

Not at all. But opportunities for middle-class families in other schools are much more accessible, regardless of ability.

Intake for low income kids would be based as much on desire and enthusiasm to participate rather than ability. There would be a limited number of places for more affluent children. Sort of like Eton – in reverse.

What kind of courses will it run?

Day-long workshops for visiting schools.

After-school classes.

Week-long courses. (Which would include accommodation for traveling students.)

Weekend classes.

Full-time sixth form courses. (A-levels.)

Masters and PhD courses.

What ages are we talking about?

Key Stage 2, up to, and including, sixth form.

Undergraduate, Masters and PhD courses.

What else does the school have?

Apart from studios and classrooms?

There’d be accommodation for students who are visiting from further afield.

Cafe / restaurant.

Gallery to promote and sell students’ work.

Gallery featuring independent contemporary and traditional art.

Masterclasses from guest lecturers.

State of the art library. (Both on and off-line.)

Book shop.

Art-house cinema.

Who will pay for it?

Well, that’s the biggest question of all.

A like-minded philanthropist would be nice.

Arts Council grant.

Lottery funding.

A percentage of Masters and PhD students’ tuition fees could go towards funding.

Sales from restaurant and galleries.

Fundraising / donations.

An Ideal World School of Arts.

Salts Mill, Bradford.

David Hockney at Salts Mill.

Salts Mill interior.

Studio space?

Any constructive criticism and advice about how to get something like this funded and off the ground would be greatly appreciated.

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